Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has always been a focus for Irvington Community Schools, reflected in The Irvington Way, and made evident by our longstanding commitment to teaching the whole child beyond what is measured by the Indiana and federal accountability models. The Irvington Way highlights conduct expectations for our students and staff, serving as a guide for how we interact most appropriately and productively with one another; however, by itself, The Irvington Way does not teach students how to actualize those tenets.
Starting at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, Irvington Community Elementary School and Irvington Community Middle School adopted the Second Step SEL curriculum to help bridge that gap and develop students through a structured curriculum in grades K-8. Irvington Preparatory Academy will launch an even more involved program called Wyman Teen Outreach Program (TOP), which focuses on social and emotional development through service learning and community engagement. This innovative formative program will begin in the 2021-2022 school year, taking place during student advisory periods every day for students in grades 9-12. Even though the program is in its infancy from an implementation standpoint, Irvington has one of the most substantial partnerships with Wyman in the state, with the intent of every student qualifying for a service-based learning pathway to graduation on top of receiving a top-rated, CASEL recognized, SEL curriculum-based experience.
Whole-group SEL instruction is just the first step in ICS’s larger SEL initiative to help students with their social and emotional growth. In the 2020-2021 school year, through the original CARES Act federal pandemic relief funding for schools, Irvington invested in an assessment to help better understand individual student SEL development: the DESSA Mini. This mini assessment is a teacher’s observation of student interactions with their peers and staff members, and is done three times during the school year. This information then can help our support staff to proactively identify and address student skills gaps before they have an opportunity to manifest in negative behaviors. Support staff can involve classroom assistants in some situations, behavior management teams, including both assistant principals and deans, school counselors, the ICS social worker (a new position), and services through Community Health Network.
In addition to our existing support staff positions, Irvington hopes to invest in and expand our overall support staff operations through funding from the ESSER II and ESSER III emergency Covid-19 relief funding made available by the federal government, beginning in the 2021-2022 school year.